Best Of

Best Chef

by

Six months into her tenure as executive chef, Emma Bengtsson clinched a second Michelin star for the once trailblazing Aquavit — Håkan Swahn’s polished Swedish restaurant that put Marcus Samuelsson on the map. The 33-year-old Falkenberg native was running the bread and pastry programs when management asked her to take over the whole operation after Samuelsson’s successor departed. Within months, she breathed new life into the stalwart paean to Scandinavian cuisine, filling the smartly decorated dining room with her intricate, focused cooking style via three-, five-, and eight-course tastings. She has honored the humble crayfish with its own seasonal peel-and-eat “festival” lunch menu, and layers nubbins of the crustacean in elegant fashion with Norwegian cod, salty sea beans, and heirloom tomatoes. Contrary to the stark plating favored at many of the city’s New Nordic outfits, Bengtsson’s compositions are vibrant and cleverly playful, pairing fatty mackerel with tart gooseberries and topping coffee-scented dry-cured gravlax with sea urchin and dill. Lest you doubt her pastry prowess in the face of these new responsibilities, know that she’s crafting high-concept desserts, like goat cheese “eggs” filled with an orange, astringent sea buckthorn “yolk” cradled by a nest of tuile ribbons. 65 East 55th Street, Manhattan 10022, 212-307-7311, aquavit.org

Most Popular